Don’t Call It a Comeback

June 8, 2010

Well, I mean, you can if you want really want to.

I just wanted to quote LL Cool J.

My dear darlings, it’s been a month. I hope noone has stabbed themselves with a fountain pen in my absence.

I have no real excuses, except that I’ve been 1.  Out of the country (seriously), 2. Planning my sister’s wedding, and 3. Focusing very hard on my freelance career.

Really. It’s been a busy month.

But, I’ve been bursting with new stories and old disgruntledment and I had to hurry back (though I admittedly it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten my own WordPress password and had to have it emailed to me).

That’s embarassing. But onward and upward. Let’s talk job hunting.

Anyone actually on the hunt for a godawful assistant job?

Then you should be aware of scamming issues.

Though I’ve been avoiding Craigslist’s “office jobs” like the plague, a more desperate friend than I (yes, there’s someone even more desperate for a job switch than me, believe it–it’s tough out there) has been reporting a shocking number of scams.

Even more shocking? How frickin’ retarded these scams are. As in, you email them a cover letter, and they email you a request for your banking account number and home address.

He's a nice guy, people. Just relax and give him your social security number already, okay?


I know y’all are way too smart to fall for any of that crap, but in the interest of saving your precious time and avoiding applying to bad apples in the first place, here’s a quick guide to avoiding scams on Craigslist’s.

It’s mostly common sense, but assuming you’re cover-lettering your butt off and a little mentally fatigued, it helps to have a a guideline.

Check back in for 5 ways to take advantage of shitty tasks at work, but meanwhile, entertain yourselves with more Craiglist fails, courtesy of one of my favorite sites, Nerve.com.

Until next time lovelies,

Amelia the Angry (though a vacation has taken the edge off) Admin


Happy Administrative Professionals Week!

April 20, 2010

When I look at this picture, I see myself–with a fresh dye job, a suitcase of my bosses’ money and valuables, and a plane ticket to Morroco.


Kind of.

So, it’s administrative professionals week. The holiday formerly known as Secretary Day. (In case you don’t know your history, this bullshit holiday was created in 1952 to encourage more young women to become secretaries through an elaborate propaganda campaign that pretended it was a respected and important job).

 I guess that means it’s supposed to be less sexist now, but that doesn’t explain the plethora of crap avaiable for gifting on this occasion that you would never dream of giving a man, like an initialed purse holder or assinine paper weight. (Got to love a gift that literally tells an employee to “give more” and “expect less” –that’s just efficient!)

Generally speaking, I think this kind of forced gift giving is awkward, wasteful, and not likely to make an overworked, underpaid, and poorly treated admin any happier. 

In fact, the high likelihood that a gift would end up being obtruse and inappropriate–ie. bath products or spa packages, ugly and weirdly personal floral arrangements, or my personal favorite, an undercover vibrator.

Perusing my wonderfully tacky Google finds for “administrative professionals day gifts,” I can’t help feeling like this whole holiday is cutesy in a father-daughter or worse, courtship kind of way. Gender neutral gifts are very few and far between, and decidely female targeted ones feel like mother’s day gifts (hand cream… comic strip mugs… ‘warning: overworked-and-cranky’ signs).

Why is that? When I think of the smart, modern women I’ve worked with (many of whom did have to be assistants at one point), I can’t imagine any of them receiving a paper weight with a poem on it as appreciation for their contributions to a company.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s nice that there’s a day for admins. And I think it’s really nice that those 50 and 60 something career assistants do receive some TLC and cookies and inspirational wall hangings, because from the point of view of the world they shaped their professional lives in, that is the reward and they’ve earned it.

But speaking as a 20 something with her eye on a very different kind of career prize, it’s a tone deaf move for a manager or supervisor to do cookies or shower gel on this holiday.

Why not a gift that acknowledges a mental life and some saavyness, like a nice planner or a charging station?

I think a present that acknowledges a certain level of professionalism can only encourage as much–and will do wonders for an employee’s morale, and make them feel like a member of the team.

And rightly so.

Until next time,



The Ghosts of Admins Past

April 13, 2010

If you’re not an admin, the word “secretary” probably conjures a couple of images.

Like this.

Or, if you’re a little twisted, this:

But if you do happen to be an admin, “other” secretaries likely have more to do with how you feel about yourself than anything else.

It just always seems like there are two camps: superstar secretaries you can never keep up with, and horrible incompetent ones that you worry other people believe you are.

Take the job postings on Indeed and the like for:

The Secretary with “10+ years of experience” Who Calls Herself a “career admin”

Who is this woman? Is that who I’m supposed to be? A “career admin” in training? Is it not okay to just do this for a while and want to move on to other things? Because these job postings make me feel ashamed for having career goals. (See my feelings on admin seminars here).

Or how about this (misspelled) ad for an assistant who possesses “a great attitude with a positive disposition.” It goes on to stress that  “Seriously, if you’re moody (or anyone has ever called you moody, cranky, grumpy, attitudinal, a misanthrope or anything even close) —Do NOT apply.” Kinda makes you do a mental rolodex of every work day you’ve had for months and fret over whether you were smiling enough.

(Side note: I’m pretty sure the grumpiness thing doesn’t apply to me since every performance review I’ve gotten since grade school has included notes like “respectful” and “a joy to work with”… but it irks me that you only hear of the “cheerful disposition” requirement for admin positions. Is it because everyone secretly knows how shitty this job is and wants someone deluded enough to enjoy it, or they’re just really attached to the Miss Moneypenny thing?)

But I digress. 

Other Companies’ Admins (Who Are Always Named Something Responsible Like “Hillary” or “Jean”)

As much as I hate sending meeting requests, it makes me itchy if I’m working with an older, more responsible, and generally perfect customer admin and she sends one. I feel like a slacker. Or not on top of my work. Or I hate her for being a little bit too excited to be doing this nonsense.

The worst ghost admin by far, though, is the one who had your job before you–or as I like to call her,

The Ghost of Your Company’s Admin Past

At first, your other coworkers laugh about what an idiot she was and how annoying it was to work with her. 

 “Oh you’re muuuuuuch nicer than Angela,” they’ll coo.

Or everyone agrees that she didn’t finish her work. “She watched movies at her desk,” the IT guy says bluntly.

But then, a few months in, maybe when you’ve messed up a task, or haven’t socialized quite as much as usual, you’ll hear new little admissions of love for your predeccesor.

“Oh, we should try to get a second assistant like Angela. Remember? She was such a mother hen! She was always hugging people when they had a bad meeting or lost an account.”

Gulp. Wait a second, am I supposed to hug people? But nobody really tells me if they’re having a bad day. Should I be asking?

And then there’s the compliment-that’s-really-a-gentle-criticism, like:

“I guess it’s good that Amelia doesn’t have candy on her desk like Angela did. Remember how Angela always had a bowl of [awesome old school candy like Sugar Daddies or pop rocks] at her desk so people would end up eating some and stay to talk about Lost? I guess it’s better that we don’t eat that much sugar anymore… but it was fun.”

…she had candy? She watched a watercooler TV show? I can’t compete with that.

Gradually, you’ll get a grip on yourself and realize it’s probably better not to be a perfect admin. It’s better to be yourself, because then when you move up (and you will move up, my darlings, keep your eyes and ears open and be bold), you’ll find a job that fits you, not just a Femme Bot version of yourself.

But while we all fight the good fight, here’s some fun “other admin” fiction that seems to catch the mystique of the secretary that actually seems human.  It’s fun to think we can be human, huh? 🙂


Until next time,



An Open Letter

April 8, 2010

What’s that?

Today is one of those days.

You don’t feel like scanning your own expense receipts?

All 852 of them?

For stupid things like Dunkin’  Donuts Coffee and $2 bridge toll?

Well please, hover over my desk and stare while I’m taking a phone call, then demand that “We” get this done by the end of the day so “We” can get our money quickly. At 4pm.

Of course, that means that “I” will be stuck at the copier for half an hour and “you” will whine about the low resolution of the scans and ask that “we” redo them, which yields exactly the same results and wastes approximately twice my time.

It means that “I” will be 10 minutes late for a one hour, $17 class as “you” breeze out the door for an early dinner.

Reality check: I’m an assistant to 25 people plus office manager plus receptionist plus account coordinator.

I can either write emails for you and manage your calendar and screen your calls and order gift baskets for your clients and keep your favorite soda in the fridge and set up the conference table for your meetings and entertain your visitors and keep a pot of coffee on and clean the stain you probably made and left out of the carpet–or I can spend my time running back and forth between the copy machine and our local Fed Ex for tasks that YOU PERSONALLY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR and that YOU SOLEY BENEFIT FROM.

Yes, the owner of the company can get away with asking me to get him a Diet Coke and scan a copy of his driver’s license. You cannot.

So please, for the health and wealth of our company: get off your ass and photocopy your own receipts.

And put your own letter in the mailbox while you’re at it. We all walk past the box every day. There’s no reason why I have to be responsible for your mother’s birthday card.


Amelia the Irate Admin.


“Sitting on a File Cabinet, Naked, With a Gun”: My Thoughts on a New Collection of Admin Anecdotes

April 6, 2010
The book. A little sexier than I pictured, considering it's about a psychological breakdown and death threat.

The book. The Cover's a little sexier than what I would have pictured, considering it's depicting a psychological breakdown and resulting death threat.

When I  first discovered this book, I was crushed that someone else had gathered a collection of admin horror stories faster before me, and that it opened with a kick ass story:  a star admin has a nervous breakdown and ends up on her boss’s file cabinet…naked… you get the idea.

But as I delved a little deeper into the book, my bullshit sense started tingling.

Each chapter begins with an inspirational “POW” or “Point of Wisdom,” which is apparently a lesson to be learned from the anecdote.

 Wait a second–is this actually a motivational book?!

My unhappy suspicions were confirmed as the first chapter pounded home its conclusion: that the ideal protocol for a horrible work situation is a cup of chamomile tea and laugh with a girlfriend.


How do I find this book irritating? Let me count the ways.

  1. This book assumes that all admins are women
  2. It suggests that it’s appropriate and even a good idea for so-called professionals to congregate in the breakroom and call each other “girlfriend” 
  3. It takes for granted that admins have no interests or concerns outside of protecting and serving their bosses.

[Side note: irritating squared=the fact that the authors of this book mentor over-achieving career EAs and give lectures on how to be a better assistant. Irritating cubed=their website Planet Admin, which looks like a tampon commercial]

 Excuse me, but fuck that.

I absolutely agree that getting upset and blowing up in the office is poor decision making and likely to hurt your career and reputation in the long run. 

People, do not be fooled by the executive who has temper tantrums and is considered passionate about his job.

An admin who does that will immediately be percieved as a loose cannon and lose his or her credibility, along with the small amount of trust and respect that makes our job doable.

And while it’s great to have a sense of humor and receive support from coworkers, I find it ridiculous that a position as office manager and administrative assistant seems to presuppose accepting verbal abuse and nervous breakdowns.

Bottom Line: EAs make sure that appointments happen, that guests and callers are treated professionally and cordially, and see to it that the office hums along smoothly. None of this should make a person cry, or send anyone running to the breakroom for hug time. If it does, there’s a problem–and this book, for all of its advice, ignores that simple fact.

Aside from advice on how to cope with being treated poorly, where the hell are the seminars on how to maintain professional boundaries, acquire and market job skills as best as possible (and exploit the hell out of them on a resume for the next job), network with higher ups, manage time to make room for personal and professional endeavors?

Where’s the how-to guide on learning more and getting ahead at your admin position–so that the bullshit lasts a shorter period of time and gets you as far along your career path as possible?

Is it too much to ask that “admins” get acknowledged as entry level workers with smarts and high hopes just like anybody else, instead of Femmebots in training for a forty year career? (See my previous entry to find out how well that went for career-admin Carol Vitkay).

Oh well. I guess if one good thing comes out of this nonsense, it’s that admins are extremely underestimated.


Until next time,



Secretary with 40 years of experience can’t find work

April 6, 2010

Happy Monday, darlings! 

Barbara Stanwyck sleeps her way to the top in "Babyface." It's harder to agree with the morality angle if you know from experience how much being a secretary sucks.

As annoying as my job is at times, I like to remind myself that things could be worse. I could be Carol Vitkay, who has just been profiled in The New York Daily News’s “Hire Me” column. 

Honestly, I don’t know what part of this article disturbs me the most. For one thing, this woman has been a secretary for forty years. 

Forty. Years. 

Not sure how old this woman is, but that pretty much covers ages 20 to 60–what many would call the best years of life.

Seriously, Carol? It never occured to you to try something else? Could you not manage a promotion to office manager or something? 

This reminds me of what my mom used to tell me life was like for women in 70’s when they graduated highschool: they could be a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. That was the extent of the options. 

My mother happened to pick teaching, which worked out great for her. Frankly, I can see the fulfillment a job like that would give you over the course of a lifetime. Carol chose secretary school for two years, and spent the next four decades taking phone calls and writing down appointments at Merrill Lynch. Do I see the fulfillment there? Not so much.

Disturbing Fact Number Two: this woman cannot find a job. 

Now granted, it’s a red flag to have worked the same job at the same company for 40 years and never have gotten a promotion. 

But forty years of experience and she really can’t find anything in a line of work that has been hailed as one of the most accessable since the recession?

Does that mean there truly no hope for those of us fresh out of college? Or is the real problem that the cute, fresh out of college girls are the ones CEO’s want bending over their desks signing Fed Ex slips.

Maybe Carol can’t find a job because a monkey could be a secretary and her experience doesn’t mean anything–companies want secretaries that promote a certain image, or perhaps young executives in training that they can groom from the front desk to the corner office. 

Disturbing fact number three: after forty years of working (for the same company, remember?) Carol has no health insurance, no pension, and does not even own a computer. She has to job hunt at the library. 

I honestly don’t know if this woman is a saint or a moron, of if it’s a glaring example of sexism that this woman has so little to show for her dedication… but I really hope she finds a job. Even more- I hope it’s a job doing something awesome, like taste testing ice cream or house sitting for Bill Gates. She deserves it. 

Good luck, Carol.


What’s your fantasy?

March 30, 2010

On Ally Mcbeal, the dancing baby represent's Ally's ticking biological clock. I like to think that if Ally were an admin, it would be a visually representation of her boss. And it would have a dirty diaper.

Okay first of all, get your head of the gutter.

Secondly, really tell me–what do you daydream about at work?

Sometimes I like to imagine the room full of water. I slip under my desk and do the breastroke out the office double doors, a la Ally Mcbeal. 

Othertimes I have more snappish thoughts. These are usually related to an object I am given to do a stupid task with, such as the “gift” my boss purchased” for the office: a sandwich grill, so that I can individually heat the catered lunches I order for client meetings. Yay me. What is it, my birthday or something?

My id had a field day with that grill–especially because my boss left it in the kitchen, which I spend a lot of time in. A the time it was presented to me, I smiled, but pictured whaling him in the face with it, cartoon style. And lately, when he calls my desk with a demand (without saying hello and mispronouncing my name), I picture myself politely putting him on hold, retreiving the grill, and beating my phone into pieces with it. Ahh, that’s better.

Seriously though, and on the topic of stupid tasks from my last post, why is it that our bosses always treat their every whim as though it’s in our deep, fascinated interests to fulfill it?

I recently had an issue with my boss because he had emailed me over the weekend requesting that I add a Monday morning phone call to his calendar. Of course, Monday morning came and I hadn’t added it to the calendar, and he missed the call.

I don’t remember much of the special “solutions” meeting we had, because while he presented carefully outlined problem solvers (namely, that I could come in at 7am on Mondays instead of 9am for the express purpose of checking me email, or I could be given a Blackberry so as to be reachable at all times), all I could think was the simple truth of my so called “mistake”: I don’t work weekends, so I didn’t check my work email on a Sunday. I was fantasizing about pulling a pacifier out of my pocket and popping it in his mouth, but that’s off topic.

So now I have to come in at 7am every Monday morning. I sit in the office in the dark and stare at my inbox, half asleep, in case there’s an urgent email. It’s been 4 weeks, and there never is. My boss has been patting himself on the back, believing that he has spared me the “stress” of not knowing if I have an urgent email in my inbox. Right. Because I’m really worried about that while I’m SLEEPING.

I don’t mind though. Sometimes I play hardcore rap music and dance around with my morning banana, pretending I’m early because I love my job and it’s fun. That’s the nice thing about fantasies. Sometimes they really do help.

Until next time,